Pardew looks for bright finale
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew is hoping a difficult season could yet end in glory.
The Magpies head into tonight’s Europa League second-leg clash with Metalist Kharkiv in Ukraine bidding for a place in the last 16, but still fighting to keep their heads above water in the Premier League.
Pardew’s men face a vital league fixture against Southampton at St James’ Park on Sunday, but he is confident the troubles of the first half of the campaign can be put firmly behind them to mount a genuine challenge on the European front.
The 51-year-old said: “There’s a possibility that this could still be a great season. If I look at my best team, I would feel confident putting my best team up against any team left in this competition.
“I’ve not really had that opportunity. We are a lot stronger now. Therefore if we get through this tie, we have as good a chance as anyone else.”
Pardew landed in Ukraine yesterday with the strongest possible squad available to him with only fullback Davide Santon, who is nursing a sore ankle, and midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa left behind along with the ineligible Mathieu Debuchy and Gouffran.
Frenchman Ben Arfa has been out of action for 10 weeks with a hamstring injury and, although he returned to training earlier this week after undergoing treatment at the French National Technical Centre in Clairefontaine, Pardew had no intention of risking him in Kharkiv.
He said: “It was a no-brainer really. He has only been with us for two days from Clairefontaine, who have put him in a fantastic physical condition for us.
“We are very pleased with their contribution and we thank them for that.”